Dunnington and Williams, with the officers and men under them, I refer to the detailed report of the engagement heretofore forwarded through the headquarters of the Western Department.
Several days before this battle Colonel (afterward Brigadier General) Allison Nelson, now deceased, a most excellent officer, arrived at Little Rock from Texas with his well-armed and finely-disciplined regiment of infantry. He was ordered to Saint Charles in ample time to have reached there before its fall, but, being without ammunition, was detained at Devall's Bluff until I had succeeded in begging, buying, and impressing enough for 40 rounds, making it into cartridges and sending it to him by rail. He then started down the river by steamer, and was within 15 miles of Saint Charles when it fell. Apprised of that event, he returned to Devall's Bluff, where intrenchments were thrown up and three heavy guns from the Pontchartrain put in position. Obstructions were also put in the channel to detain the enemy's vessels under fire. A regiment and battalion of Arkansas infantry, just organized and armed party with shot-guns, sporting rifles, and partly with pikes and lances, were sent to Devall's Bluff, together with three batteries of artillery, and, with the regiment already there, were formed into a brigade under Colonel Nelson.
The expedition under Fitch was joined on the 17th and 18th by an additional gunboat and six transports carrying troops, which raised his land force to 4,000 men or thereabouts. Evidently alarmed by the resistance met at Saint Charles, he moved very slowly upstream, fired upon from both banks by my cavalry, dismounted,and by citizens. His losses were considerable. At Clarendon 25 miles below Devall's Bluff, he landed a regiment of infantry and moved it forward on the west side to reconnoiter, escorted by the tug Tiger.
After advancing 5 miles it was compelled to retire with a loss of 55 in killed and prisoners. This repulse was given by Morgan's squadron of Texans and four unattached companies of Arkansas troops under Captain P. H. Wheat, assisted by several independent companies of non-conscripts.
I had called upon all citizens, not within the ages of conscription, to form themselves into companies bearing this designation, and of any strength between 10 and 80. They were to arm, equip, and ration themselves, and to live at will, and were to receive the value of subsistence and forage furnished, with pay as soldiers, for the time actually served. They proved invaluable as guides, scouts, and guerrillas.
On June 24 certain information reached me that Curtis, with his entire army, was in motion down the east bank of White River, and that he was almost destitute of supplies. General Rust was ordered toward Jacksonport, intending there to cross White River, get in Curtis' front, and dispute the passage of the Black River 3 miles above that place. To delay the enemy and gain time for this movement Sweet's Texan regiment was thrown across White River above Batesville and fell upon his rear, killing, wounding, and capturing over 200 Federals, and taking a number of wagons containing army store and sutlers' goods. He was compelled to retire, however, by the near approach of Washburn's cavalry brigade, marching from Missouri to re-enforce Curtis. General Rust reported it impracticable to cross White River at or near Jacksonport. I then ordered him to Des Arc, 75 miles below, and afterward to cross White River and take position on Cache River, which Curtis must cross i his march southward. This force was increased at Des Arc by the addition of Colonel (now Brigadier General) D. McRae's regiment of Arkansas infantry, which that indomitable]